By Donn Teske
On September 14th, I accompanied Forrest Buhler, of the Kansas Ag Mediation Service, to Hill briefings in Washington DC. The briefings were held on both the House and Senate sides informing and educating Congressional aides about the Ag Mediation program, which is currently active in 41 states.
We were two of five representing CAMP (Coalition of Agricultural Mediation Programs) that addressed the briefings and shared with the attendees how the program works, the need for the program, and the need for adequate and permanent funding for the program, especially in the current environment of drastically increased client loads that have more than tripled.
The mediation program has survived through the years since its creation in the 1980s farm crisis, mostly through soft dollars from Congress. The funding has been too sporadic and often when awarded held up in appropriations to the point that staff are often terminated or put on leave. This past year, through efforts greatly aided by the National Farmers Union’s DC staff, the funding was increased from 3.4 million to 3.9 million. The current MINIMUM needs to keep the 41 states serviced is over 5 million.
As we work a new Farm Bill it seems logical to have the Ag Mediation program included in the bill as permanent funding. In the whole scale of the federal spending the little crumb that is being asked to serve those in agriculture who are struggling should be doable.
As we over the years continue cannibalistic farm programs and marketing practices we as a society owe this small service to those struggling in this system.